A little video compilation I put together to celebrate my 40th birthday and my Grandma Mary’s 80th.
120 years, collectively, and we’re rollin’…
A little video compilation I put together to celebrate my 40th birthday and my Grandma Mary’s 80th.
120 years, collectively, and we’re rollin’…
Be sure to read/look at the previous entry if you haven’t already. It explains my purpose with this post. As before, page numbers refer to the First Scribner trade paperback edition, 2003. All photos, unless they are mine, were pulled from the internet, so if one belongs to you and you would prefer that I remove it, just let me know and I will.
[Bill] wrote that Vienna was wonderful. Then a card from Budapest: “Jake, Budapest is wonderful.” (76)
At the juncture of the Rue Denfert-Rochereau with the Boulevard is a statue of two men in flowing robes. (78)
“Is she really Lady something or other?” Bill asked in the taxi on our way down to the Ile Saint Louis. (82)
We walked along under the trees that grew out over the river on the Quai d’Orléans side of the island. (82)
We walked on and circled the island. The river was dark and a bateau mouche went by, all bright with lights, going fast and quiet up and out of sight under the bridge. Down the river was Notre Dame, squatting against the night sky. We crossed to the left bank of the Seine by the wooden foot-bridge from the Quai de Bethune, and stopped on the bridge and looked down the river at Notre Dame. Standing on the bridge the island looked dark, the houses were high against the sky and the trees were shadows. (83)
“Say, there’s plenty of Americans on this train,” the husband said. “They’ve got seven cars of them from Dayton, Ohio. They’ve been on a pilgrimage to Rome, and now they’re going down to Biarritz and Lourdes.” (91)
The train stopped for half an hour at Bordeaux and we went out through the station for a little walk. (94)
Bayonne is a nice town. It is like a very clean Spanish town and it is on a big river…We went out into the street and took a look at the cathedral. (96)
We past lots of Basques with oxen, or cattle, hauling carts alnog the road, and nice farmhouses, low roofs, and all white-plastered. In the Basque country the land all looks very rich and green and the houses and villages look well-off and clean. Every village had a pelota court and on some of them kids were playing in the hot sun. There were signs on the walls of the churches saying it was forbidden to play pelota against them, and the houses in the villages had red tiled roofs… (97)
Then we crossed a wide plain, and there was a big river off on the right shining in the sun from between the line of trees, and away off you could see the plateau of Pamplona rising out of the plain, and the walls of the city, and the great brown cathedral, and the broken skyline of the other churches. In back of the plateau were the mountains, and every way you looked there were other mountains, and ahead the road stretched out white across the plain going toward Pamplona. (99)
At the end of the street I saw the cathedral [of Pamplona] and walked up toward it. The first time I ever saw it I thought the facade was ugly but I liked it now. (102)
We sat in the Iruña [cafe] for a while and had coffee and then took a little walk out to the bull-ring… (105)
We’re going trout fishing in the Irati River… (108)
As we came to the edge of the rise we saw the red roofs and white houses of Burguete ahead strong out on the plain, and away off on the shoulder of the first dark mountain was the gray metal-sheathed roof of the monastery of Roncesvalles. (114)
In the evenings we played three-handed bridge with an Englishman named Harris, who had walked over from Saint Jean Pied de Port and was stopping at the inn for the fishing. (130)
They’ve never seen a desencajonada. (136)
For the following quotations, see the videos below:
At noon of Sunday, the 6th of July, the fiesta [of San Fermin] exploded. (156)
Before the waiter brought the sherry the rocket that announced the fiesta went up in the square. It burst and there was a gray ball of smoke high up above the Theatre Gayarre. (157)
People were coming into the square from all sides, and down the street we heard the pipes and the fifes and the drums coming. They were playing the riau-riau music, the pipes shrill and the drums pounding, and behind them came the men and boys dancing. (157)
The afternoon was a big religious procession. San Fermin was translated from one church to another. In the procession were all the dignitaries, civil and religious. (158-9)
[Pedro Romero, the matador] was the best-looking boy I’ve ever seen. (167)
“No. I can stay another week. I think I’ll go to San Sebastian.” (232)
Something that helped me to get through The Sun Also Rises this time around (my third attempt…) was to read it as a travel book. In the years since my second attempt at the novel, I’ve had the good fortune to travel to Paris several times. Those trips really helped me to visualize and enjoy the beginning of the book (which, in my opinion, is the most difficult part) much more. While I can’t bring students to France merely for the sake of enjoying a single work of literature (#teachergoals…), I can replicate here in this blog post what I did the entire time I was reading the book: pull out my phone to look up images of the places Hemingway name-dropped.
In other words, I used my smart phone to…you know…make myself smarter.
Hemingway is famous for following his early mentor Ezra Pound’s diktat eschewing adjectives. He describes scenes with action mostly, but does do an awful lot of name-dropping of places. I can’t imagine he expected his audience back home in the States to know what the places he named looked like. His intention was probably to say “This glamourous place with this sexy foreign name exists, and I’ve been there, and aren’t you just so jealous?” He might not have been quite that arrogant, but it is true that his writings for the Toronto Star and the writings of other American expats in Paris did much to contribute to Paris’s (and France’s…and Spain’s…) romantic allure, which thereby led to increased tourism that over-saturated the city with Americans and Brits, and caused the original expat community to shudder and look for the next great hipster beehive.
Anyway, I digress (was that last sentence a wee too judgy?). My point is this: We don’t need a ticket on the QEII and a million dollars and two months of time to follow in his footsteps the way his original audience would have; all we need is Google.
So this post will try to illustrate as much of the book as possible in order to help students develop a mental picture of the setting. Page numbers refer to the First Scribner trade paperback edition, 2003. All photos, unless they are mine, were pulled from the internet, so if one belongs to you and you would prefer that I remove it, just let me know and I will.
We had dined at l’Avenue’s and afterward went to Café de Versailles. (14)
I’m sick of Paris, and I’m sick of the Quarter. (19)
(NB: “The Quarter” refers to the neighborhood of Montparnasse that was the hub of the American expat scene in the 1920s, not to the Latin Quarter (as I mistakenly thought)
Then I sorted out the carbons, stamped on a by-line, put the stuff in a couple of big manila envelopes and rang for a boy to take them to the Gare St. Lazare. (20)
We went out to the Café Napolitain to have an apéritif and watch the evening crowd on the Boulevard. (21)
We turned off the Avenue up the Rue des Pyramides, through the traffic of the Rue de Rivoli, and through a dark gate into the Tuileries. (23)
The dancing club was a bal musette in the Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève. Five nights a week the working people of the Pantheon quarter danced there. (27)
The taxi went up the hill, passed the lighted square, then on into the dark, still climbing, then levelled out onto a dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, went smoothly down the asphalt, passed the trees and the standing bus at the Place de la Contrescarpe, the turned onto the cobbles of the Rue Mouffetard. (33)
We were sitting now like two strangers. On the right was the Parc Montsouris. (35)
“Café Select,” I told the driver. “Boulevard Montparnasse.” (35)
I went out onto the sidewalk and walked down toward the Boulevard St. Michel, passed the tables of the Rotonde, still crowded, looked across the street at the Dome, its tables running out to the edge of the pavement. Some one waved at me from a table, I did not see who it was and went on. I wanted to get home. The Boulevard Montparnasse was deserted. Lavigne’s was closed tight, and they were stacking the tables outside the Closerie des Lilas. I passed Ney’s statue standing among the new-leaved chestnut trees in the arc-light. (37)
The horse-chestnut trees in the Luxembourg gardens were in bloom. (43)
From the Madeleine I walked along the Boulevard des Capucines to the Opéra, and up to my office. (43)
At five o’clock I was in the Hotel Crillon waiting for Brett. (48)
It was three days ago that Harvey had won two hundred francs from me shaking poker dice in the New York Bar. (49)
Finally we went up to Montmartre. Inside Zelli’s it was crowded, smoky, and noisy. (69)
And there you have it: The Sun Also Rises, Book One.
As a bonus, and unrelated to the book, here are a few shots of my students in Paris (April 2015) as well as videos of myself in France (July 2014 & August 2015; video credits to Gabino).
In October of this year, my choir — MasterVoices — will present the New York premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon‘s opera, 27, about the literary and intellectual salons held at the home of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in the years between the world wars. Hemingway and Fitzgerald are characters. So are Picasso and Man Ray. It should be a heady romp of an opera!
Because the opera is so literary, I decided it would be fantastic if I could bring my College Bridge Senior English class to see it, but this posed a challenge: How in the world would 12th graders ever truly appreciate the work without some knowledge of all the key players? Or, for that matter, how would I?
See, I’m somewhat poorly-versed when it comes to the Lost Generation. I know all the big names of the era that any self-respecting English major should know, but I haven’t ever spent much time with them. I read “The Old Man and the Sea” in 7th grade twenty-five years ago and remember very little of it beyond the fact that I disliked it. I tried to love Hemingway by reading The Sun Also Rises on two separate occasions but found the book to be a tiresome chore. I’ve never been gaga about Gatsby like a lit-lover is supposed to be, and I think I opened up Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons once while in college, read a single poem, shuddered, then promptly returned to it to its shelf in the library. Thus ended my time with the Americans in Paris in the 1920s. To me they seemed purely hedonistic and self-absorbed, and really self-important. I didn’t have much of an interest.
And I might have left them there, sitting on the shelf and continuing to accrue accolades from everyone but me, but for three things: this upcoming Ricky Ian Gordon opera, as I’ve said, and Joyce and Woolf. They’re of the era and of the ilk, more verbose than their American counterparts and a thousand times more cerebral and difficult…and yet I adore them. As an Irishman and a Brit, there might be an argument for the difference of their literary output, but, most things being the same, I ought to be able to find something worthwhile in their American peers, right? So it occurred to me that the only reason I ever came to love Joyce and Woolf in the first place was due to my professor, Richard Hood, who provided rich, detailed background to their lives and times that gave their writing a context and a point of approach. He made their writing feel vital to a young twenty-something in the late 1990s, a fact for which I’m deeply grateful and now need to replicate for my own students.
I never had that with the Americans in Paris — I’ve never read them in the context of a class — but if I’m going to enjoy performing in an opera about them, and if I’m going to provide my students with a richly satisfying educational experience, then I’d better damn well get studying and teach myself so that I can pass the knowledge on.
Which is what I’ve been doing. First, I made a third attempt at The Sun Also Rises, and this time I finished it. I won’t say it’s become my favorite book or that Hemingway’s genius dripped from the pages in any obvious way, but I really did like it — so that’s a start. I’m currently reading Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece, The Sun Also Rises by Lesley M. M. Blume, a book that seems to have been released to coincide exactly with my interest in the subject matter; it came out at the beginning of last month, just as I was piecing together my course of study. Blume’s book has acutely sharpened my appreciation for and interest in Hemingway.
Anyway, in the days and weeks to come, I plan to post my explorations of the works I read in a way that is meant to be shared with my students, but will hopefully be of interest to any reader who stumbles across my blog. I’m coming at this with an open mind, yes, but, more importantly, with a humble mind. My previous encounters with the Lost Generation writers have left me feeling dismissive of their talents, but this time around my thought is, “You know what? They are beloved for a reason.” Rather than try to trash them, I’m going to try to see what it is that others see, and I’m going to share this experience with my students.
And with you. So if you’re reading this and you have any reading suggestions for me, please feel free to pass them on in the comment section. Otherwise, keep checking in for updates!
***Apropos of nothing, here’s a video of my aforementioned professor, Richard Hood, playing the banjo as he’s wont to do. A man of many, many talents; he not only taught modernist literature, he toured the country (world?) with his bluegrass band, led humanitarian trips to Haiti and moved me cross-country from Ohio to California. Hemingway may or may not be a genius, and Stein probably isn’t (not really…), but Hood sure as hell is!
From Brother Walt:I saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing